The Misquoted verse of the Quran
Dr. Hassan Hathout, January 18, 2002

One of the most commonly misunderstood verses of the Quran by the non-muslims and even among some of the muslims is the following verse:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the idolaters wherever you find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (9:5)

Actually we need to try to understand this verse in its true sense and NOT just from its surface value.

This verse was revealed for the idolaters who were living in Mecca at that time and many of those who were violating the peace treaties that they had entered with the Prophet (PBUH) and is not for the People of the Book.


When any one of you is encountered with this verse by your friends, pls ask them to read from the first verse of the ninth chapter of the Holy Quran i.e. Surah At-Taubah instead of jumping straight into the above quoted fifth verse.


A (declaration) of immunity from God and His messenger, to those of the idolaters with whom you had made treaties:- (9:1)

The Prophet (PBUH) had entered into peace treaties with different tribes of Arabia, but may of them were violating those treaties. For this reason a declaration for terminating these treaties is made.


Go about in the land for four months, but know that you cannot overmaster God (by your falsehood) and that God will humiliate the disbelievers. (9:2)

They were given a time limit of four months so that they might come to a final decision about themselves, either they might give up idolatry and polytheism or might get ready to fight or might leave the city of Mecca.

It may be noted that the time limit of four months was given in case of those polytheists with whom the Muslims had peace treaties and they were dishonoring them.

And an announcement from God and His messenger, to the people (assembled) on the day of the Great Pilgrimage,- that God and His messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the idolaters. If then, you repent (even now), it will be better for you; but if you are averse, then know that you cannot escape God. And (O Prophet !) give tidings of painful punishment to disbelievers. (9:3)

The meaning of Allah and His messenger's being free from the obligation is this that hereafter there is no refuge for them in Allah's law nor is there any guarantee from the Prophet about the safety of their lives; the period of treaty is over, if they do not give up their polytheistic attitude, force will be used against them.

This declaration was made on the occasion of Hajj. At that time the idolaters performed Hajj according to their own rites and customs, and Muslims followed their own rites. During that year the Hajj was performed under the guidance or leadership of
Abu Bakr (R) and Ali (R) and the declaration was made that no polytheist would perform the Hajj after that.


(But the treaties are) not dissolved with those idolaters with whom you have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term: for God loveth the righteous.(9:4)

The treaties of the polytheists with the Prophet which were for a fixed period (some exceeded the four month period and could be six or eight months etc) and which were not dishonored by them were allowed to stand till the expiry of their periods, as ordained in this verse.

Here comes the fifth verse.....

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the idolaters wherever you find them, an seize them, beleaguer
them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (9:5)


The ultimatum was given only to the polytheists of Arabia specifically, to settle accounts with those polytheists with whom you had no treaty.

And finally pls read the sixth verse.....

And if anyone of the polytheists seeks asylum with you, give him protection, till he may hear the word of Allah, then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are the people who know not. (9:6)

Its is quite clear from this verse that it becomes the duty of the Muslims to provide shelter for those polytheist who asks asylum during the war and he should be presented with the word of Allah and then he should be taken to a place of his safety.

Is there any thing more humane than the Quran advises about giving protection to a non-believer when he seeks asylum at the time of war.


Excerpts taken from the Friday Sermon addressed by Dr Hassan Hathout at the
Islamic Center of So. Calif, Los Angeles on January 18, 2002.